Harman commends graduates
Published: Monday, July 27, 2009
Updated: Thursday, August 13, 2009 20:08
Sidney Harman didn't show his age when he gave his keynote address at Baruch's 44th Commencement Ceremony in Madison Square Garden on May 27.
The Baruch alum paced across the platform, telling the graduates President Kathleen Waldron asked him to speak because "she thought it high time for you to see what a 91-year-old man really looks like."
Harman, who graduated in 1939 and sponsors the Harman Writer-in-Residence program, shifted to his actual purpose. He gave first-hand knowledge of a time worse than the current recession – the Great Depression.
"Back then, 1939, led to the conclusion of the Great World War II and the ascendency of this country. Those days were singularly simple in retrospect. Things were rational it appeared. We were virtually alone, almost unconnected to anything. It was known as the analog world," said Harman. "The world you enter is the digital world. Everything horizontal, everything interrelated, everything interdisciplinary. Your obligation is to get yourself ready to deal with that more complex digital world."
The world's evolution from analog to digital, Harman added, has led to each person's need for self-invention.
"Your obligation is to get yourself ready to deal with that more complex digital world. Your primary responsibility is to invent yourself. You have to be your own principal creation. That is not a simple thing, but it is your responsibility," he said.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg also gave a speech at the commencement ceremony, impressing students. "Mayor Bloomberg is his own invention … I am my own invention. How you go about doing that defines who you are," said Harman.
Harman emphasized writing as an aid for self-discovery and creation. A longtime supporter of liberal arts, Harman's Writer-in-Residence has brought distinguished poets, journalists and authors to Baruch for over a decade.
"Writing is discovery," he said.
The keynote speaker rounded out his speech with a plea for students to tackle the digital world while maintaining their humanity.
"The vast majority of people wake up in the morning, determined somehow to figure out how to get through the damned day," Harman said. "I don't think that is worthy of any of you."